By Tony Hooker
Learn to pronounce
the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
It seems like I write an iteration of this column every year around this time, but here goes.
I am most thankful that God has blessed me with an amazing family, and I’m hopeful that it will continue to grow in faith and love. Although Mrs. HLS doesn’t always understand me or my manic compulsion to help others, she nevertheless is always supportive. Except for the time I told her if I won the lottery, I’d give it away, but that’s a story for another day.
I am thankful that our little riverside community has a great leader in Cassandra Eversole Gunter, whose drive has fueled all of the improvements we’ve seen in the past few years. From the Christmas Tree Lighting Festival to Main Street improvements like the plaza, to behind-the-scenes maneuvers to help VG face the future and so much more, it’s been amazing to watch. Ask her and she’ll politely defer credit all those who help out, but without a leader who has the vision and strength to guide, nothing would get done. I am so excited to see our little hometown modernize and grow in the coming years.
Speaking of the VGCTLF, I am so thankful for all those who work behind the scenes every year to make it bigger and better. There’s no official head counts or anything, but the mayor and I talked about it, and last night’s event was the biggest one yet.
I am thankful for Bret Bielema. It’s still really early into his tenure as Illinois football coach, but the team that spanked Northwestern yesterday appeared to be far more prepared, disciplined and well coached than any in recent memory. Like all Illini Fans, I wish we could have a do-over on the Maryland, Rutgers and Purdue games, because I feel that at least one of those close losses would have been a win, given the way the team has gotten better week by week. Unfortunately, that’s not how this thing works, and we’ll be losing a lot of “super seniors” who were granted an extra year of eligibility do to the pandemic, but I am confident that Coach B and his staff will have them ready to rock next season, if they don’t earn one of the few available bowl slots for teams with losing records. And if they are lucky enough to earn a bid, then consider those extra practices a jump start on 2022.
I am thankful for the variety of dining experiences that are available in VG these days. The Tri City CC has an amazing variety of delicious entrees and sandwiches available for both members and non-members alike. You can get a great burger and fries or wings from the EmBARrass. The Korner Beehive has great coffee and amazing breakfast choices, and I can’t wait to try their soup at lunch time. A hidden gem is Rick’s Country Market deli for a home cooked meal during the week. Monical’s and Casey’s give us choices for pizza, and you can always eat fresh at the Subway. El Rancho Grande offers awesome Mexican fare, and finally, last but not least, JR’s is my go-to for creative burger choices during the week, and steaks, chops, prime rib and fish on the weekends.
I am thankful for our school and teachers like the irrepressible Callie Parr, who has allowed our FFA to flourish while teaching them how to lead a life of service, and to have fun doing it!
I am thankful for Bruce Allen and his CoC cronies, along with all the other civic organizations like the VFW, Rotary club and Lion’s Club for their continued support of our town.
Finally, I am truly humbled, blessed and thankful for the opportunity I’m given to put these words to paper each week. I am especially thankful for those who reach out to me after reading these rambling, incoherent thoughts. I hope that you all take a moment to reflect on the blessings in your life.